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Cornucopia - Toad Lilies

Toad Lilies
Anne Godfrey

One the best things about Toad Lilies is that they provide interest in a shady border from late summer into autumn, when very little else is in flower.

Tricyrtis naturally occur in the damp woodlands of China, Japan, Taiwan and Korea. It is no surprise then that the text books will tell you that these plants enjoy humus rich, moist soil in shade. However, my illiterate T. formosana seems to thrive at the bottom of an east facing wall on sandy soil that gets no irrigation.

Tricyrtis form arching clumps of fleshy stems that carry alternate lance shaped leaves. The exotic, almost orchid like flowers appear in clusters in the leaf axils and range in colour from yellow or pure white to pink, lavender and deep purple and often have varying degrees of purple spotting.

I have found the following easy to grow:

  • T. formosana 'Dark Beauty' has lavender flowers heavily freckled in dark purple and makes vigorous clumps 1 m tall.
  • T. hirta 'Albomarginata' has dark green foliage with an attractive creamy white margin. The flowers are white with deep purple blotchy spots.
  • T. 'Tojen' has arching stems that reach 75 cm. Flowers are lavender purple with a yellow throat in September and October. It also makes a good cut flower.
  • T. hirta 'Taiwan Atrianne' produces purple blue spotted white flowers from August through to October and reaches 1 m.
Toad Lilies associate well with hostas, Heuchera and ferns and are hardy to -15°C but benefit from a mulch in their first winter. Graham Stuart Thomas describes Toad Lilies as “not showy but of considerable beauty” and that pretty much says it all!

First published in the Hertfordshire Group Newsletter, Autumn/Winter 2009/10
and subsequently in Cornucopia Issue 28.
© Copyright for this article: Anne Godfrey

This article was taken from a copy of Cornucopia that was published in 2011. You could be reading these articles as they are published to a national audience, by subscribing to Cornucopia.


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